IOM warns of increased risk of human trafficking for people fleeing Ukraine

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is worried about the risk of trafficking in persons as well as sexual exploitation and abuse in Ukraine and the region as the number of vulnerable people fleeing the war continues to rise.

Over three million people have fled Ukraine, including 162,000 third-country nationals (TCNs). The deteriorating humanitarian situation and resulting large-scale and complex movements correlate with an increase in threat to personal safety, putting people on the move at heightened risk of exploitation. 

While cases of human trafficking are less likely to be identified in the immediate aftermath of mass displacement, initial reports from within and outside of Ukraine indicate the potential for traffickers to exploit the vulnerabilities of those fleeing the war.

Instances of sexual violence have already been reported and among the individuals promising onward transportation or services, there have been indications of potential exploitation. 

Individuals and community members providing transportation and accommodation assistance should do so in coordination with local protection agencies and should facilitate registration and share contact details, transportation routes, and accommodation locations to enable appropriate oversight and safeguarding.

“IOM reports show that people fleeing Ukraine are predominately from single-headed households including women, children and older persons – some of whom are unaccompanied and separated – and third-country nationals,” says IOM Director General António Vitorino.

“These groups can be especially vulnerable to the risk of trafficking as they leave their homes unexpectedly and might have their usual family networks and financial security seriously disrupted.”

In 2021, IOM in Ukraine identified and assisted over 1,000 victims of trafficking. In response to the war in Ukraine, the Organization has scaled up its efforts to establish resources and interventions to prevent trafficking in persons both in Ukraine and among those on the move throughout the region. 

Photo credit: tolga ildun / Shutterstock.com.  Demonstrators holding banners and Ukrainian flags, protested against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in front of the Russian Consulate General on Istiklal Street, Istanbul, Turkey on February 24,2022.

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